Cynical Synapse

Wed, 30 Dec 2009

Hoekstra Uses Christmas Terror Attack for Fundraising

Police arrest Abdulmutallab on NW 253

Politics in Michigan has been a debacle for some time now. And, as the election year draws near, it doesn’t look like it’s going to get any better any time soon. Both the Democrats and the Republicans are busy being devisive within their own parties, but that’s a topic for another post.

In the aftermath of the attemped suicide bombing of Northwest flight 253 on Christmas Day, many are outraged at how the attack could take place. US Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-MI) wasted no time blaming Obama’s administration. The President himself called the incident “a systemic failure”.

When our government has information on a known extremist and that information is not shared and acted upon as it should have been, so that this extremist boards a plane with dangerous explosives that could have cost nearly 300 lives, a systemic failure has occurred. And I consider that totally unacceptable.

As the ranking Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, Hoekstra’s certainly entitled—even expected—to question the failure to “connect the dots” in terrorist Abdulmatallab’s case. While he may be doing that, he seems far more interested in using the incident for political capital. As a Michigan gubernatorial candidate, Hoekstra sent out a fundraising email citing the Dec. 25th terrorist act. You can read the complete text, but here’s what’s relevant.

Hoekstra on CBS' The Early Show

They just don’t get it. The system didn’t “work” here. Far from it! It is insulting that The Obama administration would make such a claim, but then again, these are the same weak-kneed liberals who have recently tried to bring Guantanamo Bay terrorists right here to Michigan!

My promise to you, as your governor, my first duty and most solemn responsibility is to keep Michigan safe!

For almost a decade I have been a leader on National Security and at the forefront of the war on terror. I understand the real and continuing threat radical jihadists pose to our great state of Michigan and our great Nation.

I have pledged that I will do “everything possible” to prevent these terrorists from coming to Michigan.

But I need your help.

If you agree that we need a Governor who will stand up the Obama/Pelosi efforts to weaken our security please make a most generous contribution of $25, $50, $100 or even $250 to my campaign.

CH-47 helicopters at work in Iraq

Talk about being an opportunistic asshole. We already have enough buffoons in political office like that.

You may recall, even though he should know better as the Republican leader of the House Intelligence Committee, Hoekstra broadcast his secret Iraq itinerary on Twitter. This is the guy who included an intelligence leak in an anti-leak op-ed piece he wrote. Never mind that Hoekstra compromised a sensitive intelligence program just for the sake of criticizing the Administration’s handling of the Fort Hood massacre. And these aren’t Hoekstra’s only security-related faux pas.

Hoesktra says he’s a national security expert, but that’s obviously not the case. He also says he’ll be an effective leader for Michigan. How does he define that? The kind that takes advantage of situations for personal or politcal gain? Or the kind that’s easily bought for the right vote? Hoekstra originally voted against the Wall Street bailout bill in the House, but voted for it after the Senate added another $100 billion in earmarks. What did he get to change his vote in just 5 days?

Tue, 29 Dec 2009

The System Worked—Not

Bomb-sniffing dog on patrol at DTW

Believe it or not, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said “the system worked” on Sunday’s Today show on NBC. It’s unfathomable how she came to that conclusion unless she thinks a faulty detonator and heroic Dutch tourist are now part of the homeland security system. Here’s what didn’t work.

Abdulmutallab's charred underwear

In view of all those red flags and missed opportunities, Napolitano back-pedaled, admitting the system “failed in every respect”. Ya think? The ever-clueless Homeland Security Secretary also said Abdulmutallab’s case was an isolated incident. Pres. Obama said the same thing. Napolitano said there was no indication he was acting as part of a larger plot or group. Funny, that’s not how al-Qaida sees it. Yesterday, al-Aqaida in the Arabian Peninsula claimed responsibility.

Guilty until proven innocent

The terrorist group, formed from merging Yemeni and Saudi al-Qaida cells, claimed to have provided the explosive and chemical detonator for Abdulmutallab’s failed suicide bombing. Al-Qaida in the Arabian Penninsula also said the attempt was in retaliation for US assistance to Yemeni authorities. On Dec. 17 and 23, airstrikes were launched against suspected terrorist targets in Yemen. The only problem with al Qaida’s claim? Abdulmutallab bought his ticket the day before the first strike. But, then, certainly al-Qaida wouldn’t lie, would they?

More importantly, however, Abdulmutallab bragged he is the first of many such terrorists. Apparently he claims there are 25 Somali and Pakastani Muslims in Yemen, all of whom were radicalized at British mosques. They’re training up to mount similar attacks on western airliners. British and US authorities are supposedly working together on this. I hope the Brits hit Homeland Security upsdie the head when the planets start to align. We were lucky with Flight 253. We shoulnd’t expect that luck to hold out.

Sun, 27 Dec 2009

Stay In Your Seat and Do Nothing

Airline passengers

Let me see if I get this. Airline passengers must now stay in their seats for the last hour of the flight, keep their hands out of their laps, stay out of their carry-ons, and no electronic devices. That’s enough to cause me to become a terrorist! Can you imagine, nothing to do for a freaking hour? No music, no reading, no nothing! What about the first part of the flight? There’s no terrorist risk then? Give me a damn break, you looney tunes security geeks.

While ordinary citizens take their shoes off to pass through security, Christmas Day’s leg bomber had no such scrutiny. In fact, he boarded the plane in Nigeria with a pantsful of the explosive PETN. Despite his father having reported concerns about extremism to the US Embassy, Nigerian Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was not on the no-fly list. In fact, he had a valid visa to enter the US for a religious seminar. The visa, issued June 16, 2008, is valid until June 12, 2010. As it turns out, he did not have a return trip ticket.

None of this raised any red flags or concerns? I’m stunned, yet Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolotano said the system worked. The system didn’t do shit! It was Dutch tourist Jasper Schuringa that saved NW 253. What Napolotano should have said is the system over-reacted in exemplary fashion. They imposed extra searches, including pat-downs, and the do-nothing-for-the-last-hour rule.

TSA wands airline passenger

Here’s the key point from my perspective. US law enforcement and intelligence agencies had Abdulmutallab in their databases. His own father was concerned the man had become “radicalized.” Yet, he’s not on the no-fly list, and he boards a plane destined for the US with no return ticket. And this does not raise any red flags with any security officials until after the man burns his pants off?

Guilty until proven innocent

This incident seems to demonstrate inter-agency cooperation is no better than before 9-11. It show, obviously, international air travel security still has major flaws. But that won’t stop the Transportation Security Administration from making domestic passengers pay a price. After all, the more painful security is, the more effective it must be, right?

Nonetheless, the same Amsterdam-Detroit flight had a scare today as a Nigerian passenger stayed in the lavatory for over an hour. After being taken into custody, the man was found to be a Nigerian businessman who presented no threat to the aircraft.

Is this where we’re headed in air travel? Guilty until proven innocent?

Sat, 26 Dec 2009

Air Travel Security Hoops and Loopholes

Anyone who flies these days realizes air travel isn’t any fun anymore. Maybe it’s because I’m older, but I think it’s more because of so-called security and airline policies. The seats are wedged in on the planes, they recycle the air the bare minimum, and you can buy a snack for $5. Did I mention they charge you for taking your luggage along? What’s up with that? So, the airlines are part of the problem, but I guess the convenience—time-saving, mostly—outweighs my complaints as I continue to fly.

My real annoyance is with airport security. Anybody remember when they were doing the random second checks at the gates? Did you notice most of the time they were selecting little old ladies? What about the big guy wearing jeans and a tank top? There are dozens of Transportation Security Administration (TSA) guys at every screening point, most of them standing around. On a recent trip to Orlando, I noticed the trams from the gates to the terminal were manned by TSA guys. What’s that got to do with air travel security? Everyone on the trams just got off a flight or has been through screening. So manpower utlization is not exactly the most efficient.

What really bugs me is having to take my shoes off. Now they’ve added belts and coats. I’d be real interested to know exactly how many would-be terrorists they’ve caught this way. Wouldn’t random secondary screening to check shoes, belts, etc., be more effective and less disruptive? And, while the liquid thing affect me personally, I think it’s idiotic. I’m not a chemist, but I’ll bet there can be a liquid explosive that’s powerful enough in 3 ounces. All this stuff amounts to what I call feel-good security. The rule followers—the 99% of us who just want to go somewhere—have to do dumb things for an impression of security. What about strollers and wheelchairs and such? Who’s checking them? How do the TSA guys know my 3 ounces aren’t some kind of acid?

Don’t misunderstand. I’m all for effective security measures, ones that make sense and have a definite benefit for the burden they entail. Hence, my concern for the latest incident. On a Christmas Day flight from Amsterdam to Detroit, Umar Farouk Abdul Mutallab tried to detonate some explosives during the plane’s decent, succeeding only in burning his pants off. The 23-year-old Nigerian, who was subdued by another passenger and subsequently taken into custody, allegedly acted on orders from al-Qaida. Another passenger apparently was burned but the aircraft was not damaged. So, caught unawares, Homeland Security promises additional security measures.

The media jumped right on the similarity with the Shoebomber case. That December 2001 incident involved al-Qaida operative Richard Reid attempting to blow up a flight from Paris. In August 2006, UK officials foiled a liquid explosives plot on flights from Heathrow. And now we have “Shoe Bomber II” on a flight from Amsterdam, which originated in Nigeria. See any similarities here? Yep! Every one of these cases originated outside the US. They’re all foreign flights. That tells me security needs enhancing in Europe and Africa. Is anybody looking there?

Fri, 25 Dec 2009

Merry Christmas!

Filed under: Global War on Terror, holidays, Life, Military, National security — cynicalsynapse @ 9:44 am

Santa's UAS

Merry Christmas to everyone, their families, and friends. May you enjoy the blessings of the season no matter your beliefs.

Special blessings to our military personnel who continue to serve around the globe in the defense of our country and way of life. No matter your thoughts on the Global War on Terror Overseas Contingency Operations, they serve selflessly and on your behalf. They have earned our consideration and support. So, too, do their families who experience the holidays without their loved ones. The families deserve every kindness we can show them.

Enjoy your holidays.

Tue, 22 Dec 2009

Healthcare Reform: Just Business as Usual

Filed under: Behavior, Budget, Citizen rights, Congress, Economy, Government, Medicine, Politics, President, Rants, Take action — cynicalsynapse @ 9:56 pm

Health care lobbying

Some see the likely passage of healthcare reform as a victory for everyone except the people. Why? There are two big issues from my perspective. First, the orignal bill is about 2,000 pages long and there have been 478 Senate ammendments offered against this bill. Who has a clue what it actually says now? And have our Senators actually read the damn thing, cover to cover? I think not; certainly, neither of my Senators have confirmed to me they have. Second, what Article of the US Constitution grants the Congress authority to mandate citizens buy private health insurance? I don’t think any of them do.

On several occassions, I’ve asked my Senators, Carl Levin (D) and Debbie Stabenow (D) these same questions. So far all I’ve received is boilerplate responses about why they support healthcare reform in general. Neither has responded about the Constitutionality of the bill nor whether they’ve read the entire bill—in its current incarnation, mind you—not to mention if it will actually cut costs and save money.

Inaugural hope and change

The Senate voted for cloture on the healthcare reform bill strictly along party lines: 58 Democrats and 2 Independents for, 40 Republicans opposed. In his remarks on the early Monday vote, Pres. Obama said:

By standing up to the special interests—who’ve prevented reform for decades, and who are furiously lobbying against it now—the Senate has moved us closer to reform that makes a tremendous difference.

Frankly, I’m confused. It seems to me Congressmen being in bed with the American Medical Association and other bribes, such as Sen. Levin’s donations from non-profit insurer Blue Cross Blue Shield, played a large role. In fact, those 478 Senate ammendments are nothing more than maneuverings to buy votes, just like when Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) bought out Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE) for that 60th vote. The American Hospital Association and the American Medical Association both support the bill, even if they have issues with parts of it. Interestingly, both point to insuring an additional 30 million citizens as their reason for supporting the bill. Correct me if I’m wrong, but aren’t these two of the largest special interest groups regarding healthcare?

leadership change

So, it seems, it’s just business as usual and the taxpayer be damned. Michigan’s two Democrat Senators voted in favor of cloture. See how your Senator voted on Roll Call 385. But, the, you already know: Democrats, for; Republicans, opposed. So much for a bipartisan healthcare bill.

Here’s what I told my Senators yesterday:

You must vote no on all future votes on the current health care reform bill in the US Senate.

I am disappointed in your failure to answer whether or not you have read the entire HR 3780 and each of the 478 Senate ammendments to the bill for which you have voted in favor of cloture. I am also disillusioned by your apparent complicity in the corruption and bribing of your fellow Senators to reach the necessary 60 votes.

You have also failed to inform me as the the specific Article(s) of the US Constitution from which the Congress derives the authority to require citizens to purchase private health insurance. I find it inexcusable that my elected representatives can vote yea on legislation for which they have not established clear Constitutional authority to do so.

According to recent public opinion polls, somewhere between 53% and 85% expect higher costs, either in premiums or taxes or both, from this fiasco. The bill does not enjoy public support and you need to vote in accordance with your constituents. Failure to do so is a violation of their sacred trust. Vote against SA 2786 at the next vote.

A Quinnipiac University poll found most voters oppose the healthcare reform bill, according to results released today. The poll found 53% “mostly disapprove” of the plan and 56% disapprove of Obama’s handling of the matter. Overwhelmingly—72-23 percent—they disapproved of using public money to pay for abortions.

Today, the Senate held its 60-39 majority to shut off debate on Majority Leader Harry Reid’s version of healthcare reform. The next hurdle is tomorrow’s vote to limit debate on the bill to no more than 30 hours. This would put the final vote on the bill at around 7 PM Christmas Eve.

While using maximum times to delay votes on the bill, Senate Republicans caved in to a final vote 11 hours earlier, assuming the Democratic caucus maintains it’s 60-40 lead for Wednesday’s vote. With this expected result, the Senate will pass its ammended HR 3780 on healthcare reform before most of us are done with coffee on Thursday.

Even if it might not matter, have you told your Senators how you feel on this issue? You better, right now; we’re just two votes away.

Sun, 20 Dec 2009

Healthcare Reform Just a Lump of Coal

Filed under: Budget, Citizen rights, Congress, Economy, Government, Hypocrits, Medicine, Politics, Take action — cynicalsynapse @ 1:11 pm

bribes and slight of hand

Much manuevering, slight of hand, shifting loyalties, and backroom deals have gone into the current state of the Senate’s healthcare reform bill. With the on again, off again mystical 60-vote majority Democrats have been seeking, all the changes make the current Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projections, which both sides cite to support their cause, irrelevant. A series of concessions—bribes, really—secured Sen. Ben Nelson’s (D-NE) commitment as the 60th vote for the bill. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) called Pres. Obama with the news as he winged his way back from Copenhagen on Carbon Footprint One. As his pound of flesh, Nelson extorted additional abortion restrictions and another $10 million for Nebraska Medicaid expansion.

Nelson’s not the only ransom demander, however. Some more prominent hostage-takers include Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) and Michigan’s senior Democratic Senator, Carl Levin who worked to exempt non-profit insurers from an excise tax. This move cuts the bill’s projected revenue by about $3.3 billion, just one example of why the CBO needs to reassess the bill’s financial impact. Levin’s graft includes $48,000 in donations from Blue Cross Blue Shield, one of the country’s largest non-profit insurers. My response to my two Senators’ “we have to pass this” boilerplate emails:

Read the bill or get off the Hill

With all due respect, this reply does not answer my question about whether you have actually read the bill. You also failed to cite the article of the US Constitution that permits Congress to mandate every citizen purchase private health insurance.

Frankly, I’m disappointed to receive what appears to be a boilerplate response no doubt selected by some functionary in your office. I asked two fundamental questions, stating you must vote against the bill if you have not read it or cannot cite Constitutional language that permits it.

I still request you answer my questions so I know how to vote in the next election.

Everyone should have the chance to read the bill, like Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) wants to read it before a projected Christmas Eve vote. But Majority Leader Reid and his Democrat cronies don’t want the bill read. Never mind the shape-shifting hodge-podge was crafted out of the public view in closed door session.

We need to hold our elected representatives accountable to us, not special interests or the biggest contributors. Tell them how you want them to vote.

Obamacare official pace car

At least 60 Senators don’t plan to vote consistent with the public’s wishes. According to two recent polls, most think healthcare reform will cost them. An ABC News/Washington Post poll says 53% expect higher costs while only 37% expect improved healthcare. Another survey found 75% didn’t expect the bill to help them, 85% say they’ll have higher taxes, and 80% think the bill will increase the deficit, according to the CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll. In fact, most Americans oppose Obamacare.

Feed Your ADHD has a great open letter to Senators. It’s a long read, but it captures most of the key issues and links them with the Senate’s representational failures. It ends with this:

Finally, you shall not pass this bill because you are supposed to be the voice of the people. You represent the state from which you were elected. You do not represent yourselves. You do not represent an arrogant and indecisive and thieving and weak president who is on the wrong side of what is right and on the wrong side of history. When it comes right down to it, you shall not pass this bill because, if you do, you can kiss your life in the District of Criminals goodbye; we, the right-wing teabagging mobsters living out here in flyover country, which curiously includes the states you represent, will make sure your careers of public indecent exposure will skid to an embarrassing and resounding and infinitely final halt in 2010 or 2012 or whenever you’re next election happens to be.

Count on it.

HT: motorcitytimes.

Sat, 19 Dec 2009

Michigan Legislature in a Race to the Bottom

Filed under: Behavior, Budget, Education, Government, Hypocrits, Indecision, Michigan, Politics, Rants — cynicalsynapse @ 2:33 pm

burning head

Once again, everyone in Lansing said Michigan’s legislature would reach agreement on education reform by the end of the day yesterday. The chicken-little media claimed if they didn’t Michigan would lose out on a chance at about $400 million in Federal money from the Race to the Top education stimulus program. State Rep. Doug Geiss (D-Taylor) had this to say:

The best aspect about this is it helps the children of the state of Michigan. But another aspect of it, after this terrible year for the Legislature, is it shows that this institution can come together and work on legislation that benefits the state of Michigan.

Apparently Geiss hasn’t been paying attention to what’s been happening this week. In fact, legislators went home last night without voting. Seems they spent most of the day waiting for the bills to show up. It’s been a week of high drama and fingerpointing.

Bull turtle fights

After a week of rosy predictions and failure to deliver, what’s next? Why more adversarial politics, of course. The State Senate decided midnight tonight is the deadline. If the bills don’t pass both houses today, Senators won’t come back until Dec. 31st. Conversely, House Speaker Andy Dillon (D-Redford) is willing to say in session until then to pass the legislation.

No matter what happens with school reform legislation, this year’s state budget is still not resolved. And the politicos say they want to have next fiscal year’s budget settled before campaign season sets in. I think I have a better chance of winning the lottery. And the same old jokes out of Lansing aren’t funny anymore.

Thu, 17 Dec 2009

If Nothing Else, Michigan Politicians are Consistant Bozos

Filed under: Budget, Education, Government, Indecision, Michigan, Politics — cynicalsynapse @ 9:55 pm

3 clowns

Yesterday, Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm (D) lamented the legislature wouldn’t restore funding for K-12 education and Promise scholarship grants before the end of the week. That’s when the second-highest paid state legislature in the country begins its Christmas break, which lasts until mid-January. Never mind the State House, under Speaker Andy Dillon’s (D-Redford) supervision—leadership doesn’t really seem to apply—took most of the summer off when they should have been working on the budget. Which brings me to one of the more bizarre things Granholm has said. In case you’re not aware, Michigan’s budget battle for FY-2010 still isn’t done. Granholm hopes it can all be settled before election season. She said:

It’s feasible to do it by the end of February, if they are serious. Look how quickly they have responded to the Race to the Top opportunity. So, if we get that finished this week, which I think we will, it should be a signal that the Legislature can get it done, but they have to agree.

Is Granholm even on the same planet as the rest of us? “Look how quickly they have responded to the Race to the Top opportunity.” I hate to point out the Race to the Top concept came out in February and the program was formally launched in July. Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t think starting to work on the required legislation in December (4+ months later) really fits my idea of quickly.

Michigan state representatives working on the budget

The Race to the Top Phase I application is due Jan. 19th. For those not selected, Phase 2 applications are due June 1st. But, before that, there’s a Jan. 11th State Fiscal Stablization Fund deadline. We’ve not heard anything about that in the media. I don’t know if Michigan will meet the Jan. 11th deadline, but politicians are only talking about the Jan. 19th deadline. State Education Superintendent Mike Flanagan said he’d stop the application process if lawmakers didn’t pass the necessary bills. In his early December testimony, Flanagan said:

I’m willing to compromise, on some of the nuances of this in order that you pass some legislation quickly or here’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to pull my guys off the application. I am not going to have them work 24/7—and that’s exactly what they’re doing—and pulling them off everything else to make this work if I see that we can’t actually pull of the legislation, or if there’s so many bombs thrown in the way that we have no chance of winning, then I’m going to pull them off. But we can win this.

As holiday break looms for Michigan’s legislature, how are we doing? Surprise! He said, she said. Deadlocked over charter schools and blaming the other party. Michigan’s legislature is the most pathetic, blamethrowing bunch of nincompoops ever in recorded history! They all need to be shit-canned next election, no matter what they’re running for.

No budget, no education, no excuse. No re-election to anything

Tue, 15 Dec 2009

Cautiously Optimistic Even Though No One’s Read the Healthcare Bill

Filed under: Behavior, Budget, Citizen rights, Congress, Government, Medicine, Politics, President, Take action — cynicalsynapse @ 7:56 pm

Time for your shot

President Obama met with Democratic Senators today to wag his finger at them and tell them to pass the Sen. Harry Reid’s (D-NV) healthcare reform bill, which has been gerrymandered by a few weeks’ back room deals. I still don’t get the sense of urgency politicians have put behind this at this time. Healthcare delivery and costs has been an issue as long as I’ve been politically aware, but now it has to be fixed before the end of the year? Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) sees it this way: “We won’t get another chance for a long time to do something this significant.” What makes December 2009 the critical point in the future of healthcare?

It seems the bill’s fate is up to the whims and fancies of Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CN). You know, the guy who ran for Vice President as a Democrat, but is now an Independent, but went to the White House with the Democratic Senators this morning. Did I mention, while running for Vice President, he kept his Senate seat, just in case? Believe it or not, he did the same in 2004 in an unsuccessful bid for a Presidential nomination. Besides his annoying, whining talking style, why would anyone want to puff up this guy’s head?

Obama after meeting with Senators

After meeting with the Senators, Pres. Obama said he was “cautiously optimistic” the bill would pass. Besides Lieberman and independent Bernie Sanders (VT), Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE) is a potential holdout. That means Michigan’s Senators, Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow, both Democrats, are expected to vote for the bill, no matter it’s final wording or costs.

Here’s the rub. I emailed both Levin and stabinow, asking if they had personally read the bill. I said if they had not, they must vote no. Levin hasn’t yet responded. His functionaries usually send out their form emails after the vote is done. Stabinow’s office sent me a form email that did not answer my key question: has she personally read the bill? The email went on to acknowledge my opposition, which was only ancillary to whether or not she read the bill, and spouted her rhetoric of healthcare is a right. I might also point out that neither has addressed my question of constitutionality. While I don’t necessarily disagree with Debbie, healthcare is not included in the Bill of Rights. And I don’t think there’s anything in the US Constitution permitting the Feds to require me to buy health insurance.

So, I think it’s time to email, phone, and/or fax your Senators and let them know how you feel on this issue. It’s obvious to me that Michigan’s Senators can’t even be bothered to answer my questions. That tells me they’ve not read the bill. And, as I told them before and will tell them again, if you’ve not personally read it, you have to vote no.

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